This week for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop I chose prompt #1.) A memorable high school job. First just let me say that I was never allowed to have a real job in high school. And if I HAD been, there were no places to get a job. We lived in a very rural town and even if there had been jobs to have I would not have had a way to get there or home since we only had my mom and dad’s vehicles and they both worked and needed them. It was sort of a catch 22. I needed a job to get my own car but didn’t have my own car to get a job in order to get the car.
But just because I didn’t have a “real” job doesn’t mean I didn’t work. My father was a manager for a large orchard. They grew apples. All kinds of apples. And eventually peaches. My dad had a large group of guys that worked for him picking apples. Many of them he’d pick up to take to work. He had a big flat bed truck that he built a hut on the back with benches so the guys had a place to ride. Sometimes he even had migrant workers come and work for him.
During the late summer months and early fall months after the majority of the apples had been harvested there were still lots of apples that fell to the ground during the picking season that had to be picked up and salvaged. Most of these were the ones that were used to make wine and cider and vinegar. And of course someone had to pick them up and most of the workers that picked the apples off the trees did not want to pick them off the ground because it was a lot slower going and it didn’t pay nearly as well. And when you’d finished all the apples within like a 4 or 8 tree area you’d have to wait for someone on a tractor to come by to move the bin to a more convenient area with new trees that hadn’t been picked over yet. And that was before the advent of cell phones so you couldn’t call someone to come by, you just had to sit and wait so it was slow going unless you wanted to lug those heavy, heavy bags for longer treks for new trees. Nah…. I don’t think so.
I’m not sure if any of you have ever picked apples, either from the tree or off the ground but it is back breaking work. To pick them off the tree or from the ground you have to strap this big canvas and metal bag contraption to your chest that is configured so that it has a drawstring bottom so that when you take it to the bin you lean over the bin and unhook the drawstrings and the bottom opens and the apples fall through into the bin rather than having to take the bag off and dump it every time. It’s sort of like wearing a bookbag backwards that has a drawstring bottom with ropes and big metal hooks. It’s supposed to I guess save time but it’s still laborious work. And if you’re picking them off the tree you have to climb the ladder while wearing that cumbersome bag. And if you were picking the ones off the ground you could kind of drag the bag from area to area but you’d still have to pick it up to move to the other side of the tree or dump the bag.
Since the regular workers didn’t want to do it sometimes my mom and my little sister and myself would do it on the weekends. We’d split whatever we made. Well, actually my mom would get half and my little sister and I would split the other half. Sometimes my mom wouldn’t go and my best friend Sam and I would go. I liked it them because we’d split it 50/50. We’d ride in the cab of the truck with my dad because he didn’t trust the guys in the back for us to ride with them. We’d pack a lunch and Daddy would usually stop and get us a drink and maybe some cheese and crackers. Let me tell you, by lunch time you definitely were ready to eat because it was hard work. You could work all day and only fill up maybe 2 or 3 of those bins and you only got $5 for one of those HUGE bins (I think it was like a 20 or maybe even 50 bushel bin).
And it was nasty work because the apples were on the ground and sometimes they were half rotten but you didn’t know until you went to pick one up and your finger would pierce through the mushy bruise on the surface. If you were lucky it was just the bruise and not already inhabited by some bee or some kind of worm. That was when it was exceptionally nasty. It was hard and backbreaking work and you made little money but it was the only spending money that I was allowed to make on my own. By the end of the day you were a nasty sticky dirty mess. You had to try to keep the juice off yourself the best you could so that the bees didn’t mistake you for an apple and try to drink your nectar (sting you). If you could find a way to get water out of the lake or a stream to wash some sticky off a couple times a day you were ahead of the game. We’d leave the house in the morning while it was still dark and when we got home it was after dark. At the end of the day we’d have to wait by the road until my dad came back by to pick us up and all I’d want to do was go home and take a bath and go to sleep. Maybe that was their aim because we were way too tired to get into trouble.
We were also not allowed to curse or backtalk our parents so no matter how tired or nasty you felt, you’d best keep it to yourself! This one particular day I must have been about 15 I guess. My mom and I were working together that day and I think we had done 3 and a half bins and my dad had just gotten there to pick us up and my mom turned to me and said “You know we could have probably finished that last bin today if you weren’t so damned lazy!” Without even thinking I retorted “It’s not that I’m lazy I’m just so damned tired!!” As soon as I said it I clapped both my hands over my mouth like I was trying to keep what I said in my mouth without my mom hearing it. Too late! She looked at me and said “That came rolling off your tongue awfully easily and if I weren’t so damned tired I’d beat your ass for saying that!” Thank God for small favors! I was never so glad for her being tired cause if I hadn’t been so damned tired I’m sure I’d have tried to run! I still to this day will look at her and say “It’s not that I’m lazy, I’m just so damned tired!” Now she just cracks up every time I say it. Thank God I’m finally old enough that she won’t beat my butt!